You may have seen this photograph circulating around social media in the last few years. It was taken by Kirsty Kelly from Lanarkshire who graciously gave me permission to use the image. Kirsty’s photographs are gorgeous, but this one in particular captures a wonderfully unscripted moment. It is a picture of Kirsty’s daughter responding to a picture of Anna Pavlova painted by John Lavery. I love it!
Great works of art have a way of inspiriting our spirits and I have found that young children often connect deeply and intuitively with art. Kirsty’s photograph captures such a moment with her daughter- right as it is happening.
It is never too early to start enjoying art with your children. Of course the educator in me feels compelled to list the many educational benefits
- Enjoying art provides many informal learning opportunities
- Inspires creativity
- Stimulates the imagination
- Encourages observation skills
- Gives insights into the worlds of other cultures and times
- Provides opportunities for children to articulate opinions and form judgements
- Develops visual perception (the process of taking images and giving them meaning).
- Helps develop spatial concepts
Whoa! All those benefits from enjoying art? It sounds pretty impressive doesn’t it? But what I love the most is the bonding that occurs when parents and children enjoy art together. Something magical happens as memories are built and connections occur. How’s that for a win win situation?
There are many different ways to enjoy art with your children. If possible I would encourage you to visit an art museum at least once. There is nothing quite like seeing great works of art in real life. Also most art galleries have fun children’s programs that you can enjoy as a family.
Having said that visiting an art museum with younger children can be tricky, so you may want to do some planning. Alison at No Time For Flashcards has written a great post about having fun with young children at an art museum.
If you are not able to visit a gallery you can still connect with your children over a good picture. The Internet is a treasure trove of images and information, as is your local library.
So you have selected a great picture you want to share with your children like Children by the Sea in Guernsey by Pierre-August Renoir. What can you do with it? Here are some suggestions.
1. Talk About It
I have found that children have a great deal to teach us about art. They tend to come to the pictures with very few preconceived ideas and see things that we adults often overlook. Here is a list of questions to get the discussion going.
- What do you notice first?
- What else do you see?
- What story do you think the artist was trying to tell?
- What feeling words come to mind when you look at this picture?
- What do you like about this picture?
- What would you like to ask the artist?
- What shapes can you see in this picture?
- What colors can you see?
- If you could jump into this picture, where you go?
- What would you do?
- What would you see? Hear? Smell?
Obviously you wouldn’t want to ask all these questions, but select a few of them, ask away, and then listen carefully. You will be amazed at what you learn.
2. Encourage Careful Observations
If you choose a painting that is full of detail, like Census at Bethlehem by Pieter Bruegel, encourage the children to hone their powers of observation by playing a game like I spy.
“I spy with my little eye someone putting on skates.”
3. Engage the Imagination
Art has a way of engaging the imagination. Take advantage of this by inviting the children to make up stories about the painting. For example, suppose you’re looking at a painting like this one – A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat.
Direct your children to choose someone in the picture and mimic the pose of that person. Ask
- What are you thinking or saying?
- What are you feeling?
Then help your children make up a story about their character. Alternatively ask some other leading questions such as
- If the artist were to paint this picture today what would we see?
- What would be different?
- What would the people be doing?
Next week I will continue this post with a few more suggestions that will include art activities, movement, and some games you can play. Stay tuned for details!
I’d love to hear from you. Do you enjoy art with your children? Do you have any tips for bonding through art? Have you any art museum stories to offer? Please leave a comment below.